JUPITER, Fla. -- Anthony Rendon knows the stigma surrounding his injury history. Dating back to his years at Rice University, he has torn ligaments in his right ankle, broken that ankle, strained his right shoulder, fractured his left ankle and sprained the MCL in his left knee and strained his left oblique.
"I definitely understand where they're coming from," he said with a laugh. "I mean, I'd say the same thing about me, too."
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That's part of the reason why Rendon, 26, was most proud of his durability in 2016. He played in a career-high 156 games, second-most on the team, and after a slow start to the year, he was one of the Nationals hottest hitters in the second half. His overall numbers ended up close to his career averages as he hit .270/.348/.450 with 20 home runs while posting 4.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball Reference, on his way to winning the National League Comeback Player of the Year. He did this while excelling on defense where he was a finalist for the Rawlings Gold Glove Award at third base and ranked second in the National League in defensive runs saved.
Rendon had to get over his struggles near the All-Star break, which he admitted made him a little frustrated considering he felt like he was hitting the ball hard without the results to show for it. He even had a friend mention to him how well his average exit velocity stacked up -- he finished third on the team at 92 mph.
"Thanks, but I'm hitting like .190," Rendon said. He was exaggerating a bit because his batting average was .254, but still well below his career norms.
It did give him confidence, however, to continue with the same mentality combined with a slight adjustment to try and put the ball in the air more frequently.
"Not sure whether it was Murph getting in my head or not," Rendon said referencing Nats second baseman Daniel Murphy. "But yeah trying to lift it in certain situations, maybe being more cognizant of it and trying to actually drive it."
Rendon posted a .866 OPS after the break, more than a 100 point increase over his .746 OPS during the first half, with a 134 OPS+.
And while third base is a particularly stacked position around the Majors with players such as Manny Machado, Kristopher Bryant, Nolan Arenado and Adrian Beltre, Rendon has proven when healthy that he belongs among the elite third baseman in the game.
"I feel like I'm doing everything in my power to stay healthy," Rendon said. "Just want to be out there everyday."